The settlement at Alki Point established by the Denny Party in 1851 was originally named New York. By a process that is not entirely clear, the name became New York–Alki, and then just Alki. Alki means ‘by and by’ or ‘someday’ in Chinook Jargon, the implication being that the settlement might rival New York… someday. Charles C. Terry officially applied the Alki name to the town plat he filed in 1853, and the point, street, and neighborhood were all named after it.

In the introduction to her 1937 book, Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle, Sophie Frye Bass writes:

Please everyone, pronounce Alki as the Indians did, as if it were spelled “Alkey.”

Hardly anyone does this anymore — in fact I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say /ælkiː/ in all seriousness when talking about West Seattle. /ælkaɪ/ is by far the preferred pronunciation, as shown by this informal Twitter poll I ran:

A screen shot of a Twitter poll by me, asking "Seattleites! I’m willing to bet you’ve always pronounced Alki as AL-kye (ælkaɪ), never as AL-kee (ælkiː). So this poll isn’t about how YOU pronounce it, but rather how you’ve heard OTHERS pronounce it." "I've only heard ALkye" gets 82.9%, "I've actually heard ALkee" 10%, "I SAY ALkee! Really" 2.9%, and Other (comment below) 4.3%

Note: On July 10, 2024, I began converting embedded tweets on this website to screenshots because of issues with how they were integrating with WordPress, which began not too long after Elon Musk purchased Twitter and changed its name to X.

Apparently the Denny descendants (Bass was the daughter of Louisa Catherine Denny, herself the daughter of Arthur Armstrong Denny and Louisa Catherine Boren) still prefer — nay, insist — on ALkee:

A screen shot of a tweet by Knute Berger saying "The Dennys insist on AL-kee"
A screen shot of a tweet by David B. Williams saying "I was once at a talk where a Denny family descendant chastised the audience for saying Alkye, instead of the correct Al-kee Oh well"
A screen shot of a tweet by Zach Works saying "I think I've only heard AL-kee from presenters (Brewster Denny?). I listened to this recording of a Squamish elder speaking Chinook Jargon and that seems to be closest to his pronunciation. See 12:55 mark:"
Louis Miranda: Suqmish Elder teaches Chinook Wawa on YouTube
Birthplace of Seattle monument, 1926. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 46980
Birthplace of Seattle monument, 1926. Originally dedicated in 1905 on the 54th anniversary of the landing of the Denny Party at Alki Point, it reads “At this place on 13 November 1851 there landed from the Schooner Exact Captain Folger [and] the little colony which developed into the City of Seattle.” It was rededicated, with a new foundation, on September 4, 1926 (likely the date of this photograph). A stone from near Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, was put in the foundation, and the new plaque reads “From Plymouth Rock to Alki Point: Honoring pioneers on the American shores of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the above stone was brought from Plymouth Rock by the First Transcontinental Motorized Caravan, managed by James H. Brown, and endorsed by the American Automobile Association. This tablet was furnished by the Automobile Club of Washington. The unveiling ceremonies on September 4, 1926, was participated in by officers and citizens of. the City of Seattle, the County of King and the State of Washington.” Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 46980

As noted in Harbor Avenue SW and Beach Drive SW, the Alki Avenue name once stretched from Lincoln Park around Alki Point and Duwamish Head to the industrial area near Harbor Island, but sometime between 1912 and 1920 the name was reduced to the portion between Alki Point and Duwamish Head.

Today, Alki Avenue SW begins at Harbor Avenue SW by Duwamish Head and goes 2⅕ miles southwest to Beach Drive SW.

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